Research indicates a connection between gum disease and other health issues you may think are unrelated.
The initial stage of gum disease is gingivitis – inflammation of the gums. Left untreated, it can progress to full-blown periodontitis and even advanced periodontal disease.
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque – a sticky film that contains bacteria. Some of these bacteria are harmless but others can attack your gums. If plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it begins to irritate the gums, causing soreness, swelling and bleeding.
Gum disease has long been recognized as a major cause of tooth loss, but a strong body of evidence also suggests a link between periodontal issues and overall health.
Infection from gum disease can spread to other areas of your body, including vital organs, and researchers believe there may be a connection between periodontitis and serious medical conditions such as:
- Heart disease.
- Respiratory complaints.
- Brain disorders.
- Increased risk of cancer.
Gum Disease and Heart Problems
Whether gum disease is a risk factor for heart disease is still being debated, but there are theories about how the two might be connected by inflammation or bacteria.
Inflammation is a result of the immune system’s protective response to irritants. However, if it continues for a long time, it can damage organs and tissue. One theory is that inflammation from the gums can lead to inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
Another theory is that the bacteria that cause gum disease can get into the heart via the blood supply.
Gum Disease and Lung Complaints
A UK study published in 2019 found a significant relationship between chronic gum disease and respiratory issues.
Again, the problem appears to be inflammation and bacteria. If tubes in the lungs become inflamed through gum disease, they narrow and restrict air flow. Bacteria from gum disease could also be breathed into the lungs, triggering infections.
Gum Disease and the Brain
Some studies have found a link between gum disease and cognitive impairment, particularly in older men.
Other experiments have shown that a bacterium commonly present in cases of periodontitis can be found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Gum Disease and Cancer Risk
In 2018, the International Journal of Cancer (IJC) reported a strong link between gum disease and overall cancer risk, particularly pancreatic cancer.
Researchers discovered that a bacterium commonly present in gum disease can produce an enzyme often found in tumors in the gastrointestinal system.
Importance of Regular Dental Check-Ups
Canadian government health experts say our oral health plays an important role in our general wellbeing but point out that gum disease is a common problem among adults.
These dental exams also give your dentist or dental hygienist the opportunity to carry out a professional cleaning to get rid of accumulations of plaque. If plaque has calcified into tartar, it can only be removed by a dental professional.